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Mapping a Course to Institutionalize Community-Based Learning at Lawrence

*Content pulled from proposal materials 

Lawrence faculty, staff, and students have cultivated numerous projects that foster mutually beneficial knowledge exchange and collaboration between the university and Fox Valley communities. Partner organizations include local school districts, United Way Fox Cities, Celebrate Diversity Fox Cities, and the Menominee Nation. Conservatory faculty created an initiative that moves music performance from the concert hall to underserved audiences at food pantries, shelters, and correctional facilities.

Although there exists a wide range of community-based initiatives on campus, the success of this work is variable, and the scope of these projects is unclear. Lawrence does not currently have an institutional support system, a database of community partners, or a framework of standards and expectations for community-based pedagogies (CBP). Each person who undertakes this work is currently blazing their own trail. Even students who must complete community-based learning requirements for their majors are expected to cultivate community relationships on their own. Lawrence aims to embrace CBP as an element of our institutional culture and framework. This grant is a timely opportunity to build our CBP capacity and facilitate institutionalization of CBP more broadly. We are currently re-evaluating our Reappointment, Tenure, and Promotion (RTP) processes and, over the next few years, will re-evaluate our First-Year Experience and General Education Requirements. CBP are also a theme in the next accreditation cycle and this initiative will help us prepare.

Our goals are to develop a clear institutional understanding of CBP and a prioritized action plan for institutionalization. To accomplish these goals we have a three-phase plan. We will undertake a self-study exercise of the CBP landscape. Then, we will invite an external review to map the capacity, expertise, and resources we currently have for community-based pedagogies, identify critical areas for growth, and recommend next steps for institutionalizing sustainable CBP infrastructure. We also propose three site visits to ACM schools that have implemented strategies like those identified in the external review to gain expertise and knowledge. These visits will provide a forum to share the lessons learned during our external review, thereby providing additional support for institutions looking to strengthen their current practices.


Our overarching goals are to develop a clear understanding of CBP at Lawrence and a prioritized action plan for institutionalization. Within that, our supporting goals are to:

1. assess the current resources and scope of CBP at Lawrence;
2. identify primary barriers and areas of opportunity to create a sustainable CBP infrastructure;
3. recommend best practices that will address barriers and/or build on current CBP practices;
4. observe ACM CBP programs in situ, assessing campus resources, challenges, and institutional support; and
5. network with other ACM institutions and leverage their CBP expertise.


First, the team plans to conduct a self-mapping exercise, to support Goals 1-2. Next, an external review — funded through a matching grant from Lawrence — will address Goals 1-3. Then, recognizing that many ACM institutions have created vibrant cultures of CBP which could be used as models, we will conduct three site visits (Goals 3-5). We have identified seven potential schools but will target final selections with findings and recommendations from the review. Site visits will help us understand how ACM schools have implemented strong CBP programs and learn from their practical experience. We also plan to share out and discuss findings from our review to foster the creation of a more engaged, robust community of practice within the ACM. With this knowledge, we will develop a clear implementation plan for CBP at Lawrence and present to top administration and faculty leaders (Goal 3).

Dissemination Strategies

The strategies we employ to conduct a self-study of our CBP efforts can be shared as a resource with other ACM institutions that are interested in surveying their own campus efforts. We also plan to share the final recommendations and plan stemming from the external review and site visits. This document will bring together the ideas from many leaders in CBP and will be useful, although not directly transferable, to other ACM campuses. We plan to share this report with the institutions we visited and any other interested institution particularly within the ACM. Finally, local conferences, such as Connect Wisconsin, will provide platforms to share this work with non-ACM colleagues and community partners across the region.

Outcomes and Significance

At Lawrence: Lawrence is at a foundational level of institutionalizing CBP. We do not have a Center or Director leading and coordinating efforts like some of our peer institutions. While there are examples of CBP excellence, innovation, and passion here, we need to establish a shared understanding of what CBP entails, how it can help the college reach its strategic priorities, and a realistic plan of action in order to begin institutionalizing CBP. Previous, individual efforts have had limited effect, and we clearly need a special initiative to increase our momentum and bring together practitioners and partners to raise the profile of CBP work. Given that this project will happen during a time when the Lawrence is actively incorporating innovations and high-impact practices in its new First-Year Experience and GERs (and several members of our team serve on these committees), we can make sure CBP are integrated in these core programs. Project outcomes will help us to build a proposed course of action that is based on best practices and has an external evaluation, clear goals, and metrics to measure success—key features of successful new programs.

Across the ACM: The grant will enable site visits that aid in the exchange of ideas and resources between ACM institutions. We believe that this exchange will build a community of practice that will allow each participating school to troubleshoot and plan how to expand and improve CBP within its own context.

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